International school fees rising steadily
China, Switzerland and Belgium top the list of most expensive countries for international education.
“The rising cost of international education, coupled with an ongoing trend of employers replacing traditional expat packages with local contracts, increases the financial burden on expats considerably. While employers must be mindful of the financial pressure that relocating a family and moving children to international schools can place on expats, globally mobile employees must also take into account those education costs and taxes as early as possible in their salary negotiations. This is particularly true when the employer uses the host country local salary as a benchmark without including additional benefits such as an allowance for international school fees and boarding.“It is not surprising, therefore, to see expat parents rethinking their entire approach to their children’s education. For example, we see more and more parents considering options such as home schooling or enrolling their children in local schools that offer internationally recognised curriculum. Some have also opted for private tutors that provide supplementary native language lessons in lieu of costly international education.”
Across the globeBased on the median of the 6th grade tuition fees per country, China (US$36,400 per annum), Switzerland (US$28,300 per annum) and Belgium (US$27,800 per annum) come out tops as the most expensive countries for international education.Following closely behind with fees above US$20,000 per annum, these countries make the rest of the top 10 out of 98 countries (in descending order): United Kingdom, Hong Kong, United States, Singapore, Malaysia, Austria and Australia.“We shifted both our children to an international school so they can learn French, our mother tongue. However, the high cost of education has in turn changed the way we budget for our lifestyle. We now limit ourselves on spending much more than we did in our home country. Paying for education and extra-curricular activities now takes up the largest part of our monthly budget,” said Helene Denaiffe, a French expat residing in Singapore.Among the 707 international schools surveyed, annual tuition fees fluctuate from as high as US$48,170 in Switzerland’s Institut Le Rosey, to as low as US$860 in Colombia’s Colegio Anglo-Colombiano.
Short-term assignments“Over the past few years, given price inflation, education costs have become more noticeable as a line-item in the total assignment cost. We encourage our Destination Provider to help parents identify schools that is best suited to the child, as factors may depend on the child’s personality, learning styles and cultural sensitivities. Often, we find parents of younger children favour smaller and more intimate schools that are not necessarily the most expensive, but it depends on the child and how best to cater for their education needs. Given the rising costs of education and ability to access top schools in certain locations, we are noticing an increasing trend of short-term international assignments and commuting assignments where children remain in the home location,” shared Stephen Park, Head of Global Mobility at Fonterra.“Some cities, such as Hong Kong, are particularly challenging for our mobility programmes. At times, it is competitive to get children into good schools and I imagine some employees may turn down assignments in Hong Kong for the sake of their children's future. It just shows how important education assistance has become inside mobility programmes.”
Price trendsFurther, ExpatFinder International School Fee Survey identifies several price trends that companies should consider when deriving expatriate pay and benefits packages:
- Up, up and away
- Mind the gap
- Nationality matters, even for schools
- Location, location, location
- Beware of hidden costs